This is my first winter living next to the river. In the cold dark I take my sonâ€™s yellow lab for a walk in the backyard that stretches to the riverbank. The ice creaks and groans and sometimes makes such a loud crack that the dog startles and lunges towards the house.
This summer I noticed a loon on the river along with a couple of common merganser ducks (Unfamiliar with these white bodied fowl I relied on my friend Karl, who knows birds, to identify them). One sunny afternoon my son and his dog and I were out for a walk and watched a pair of green birds with distinctive red markings on their wings as they swooped and dived and chased each other through some brush on the bank. When we returned home I got out my motherâ€™s Audubon bird book to look them up. As I opened the well-worn book I remembered how it had sat on the ledge of the big picture window in the kitchen of my childhood home in the Pocono Mountains. Now it occupies a shelf in the kitchen of my new riverside home, right next to the cookbooks. According to Audubon, these beautiful birds were cedar waxwings.
This fall I entered the upstairs bedroom that I use as my office and there, perfectly framed in the window that opens onto the river, was a bald eagle sitting in the bare branches of a tree. He swiveled his great white head with its hooked yellow beak, back and forth,Â surveying from his perch. Then he turned and faced me, and for a few long moments looked me right in the eyes. Then with a majestic and leisurely glide, he took off up the river.
All the neighborhood cats love this riverbank and my yard that provides such convenient access. The longhaired black one and the multicolored one who wears her name, Lily, on her red collar had many standoffs there when the weather was better. When the poor little black one was unfortunately hit by a car just up the street, Lily became the unequivocal queen and I often saw her in the tall grasses, peering out with bright eyes.
It is a wondrous thing to live by a river! There is the racket of raccoons fighting in the branches of overhanging trees and the quiet kayakers at dusk on a summerâ€™s eve. There is a hidden path down to the rocky waterâ€™s edge where on a hot summer afternoon, my daughter and I slip in and swim.
(copyright Pam Roberts)